In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.
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They moved on to the public baths where they descended one by one into the waters, each more pale than the one before and all tattooed, branded, sutured, the great puckered scars inaugurated God knows where by what barbarous surgeons across chests and abdomens like the tracks of gigantic millipedes, some deformed, fingers missing, eyes, their foreheads and arms stamped with letters and numbers as if they were articles requiring inventory. Citizens of both sexes withdrew along the walls and watched the water turn into a thin gruel of blood and filth and none could take their eyes from the judge who had disrobed last of all and now walked the perimeter of the baths with a cigar in his mouth and a regal air, testing the waters with one toe, surprisingly petite. He shone like the moon so pale he was and not a hair to be seen anywhere upon that vast corpus, not in any crevice nor in the great bores of his nose and not upon his chest nor in his ears nor any tuft at all above his eyes nor to the lids thereof. The immense and gleaming dome of his naked Shull looked like a cap for bathing pulled down to the otherwise darkened skin of his face and neck. As the great bulk lowered itself into the bath the waters rose perceptibly and when he had submerged himself to the eyes he looked about with considerable pleasure, the eyes slightly crinkled, as if he were smiling under the water like some pale and bloated manatee surfaced in a bog while behind his small and close-set ear the wedged cigar smoked gently just above the waterline.
Senior Editorial Assistant Dan Goff
Excerpt from Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
She was constant as daylight, and she would be unremarked as daylight, just to watch the calm inwardness of [her children’s] faces. What was it like. One evening one summer she went out to the garden. The earth in the rows was light and soft as cinders, pale clay yellow, and the trees and plants were ripe, ordinary green and full of comfortable rustlings. And above the pale earth and bright trees the sky was the dark blue of ashes. As she knelt in the rows she heard the hollyhocks thump against the shed wall. She felt the hair lifted from her neck by a swift, watery wind, and she saw the trees fill with wind and heard their trunks creak like masts. She burrowed her hand under a potato plant and felt gingerly for the new potatoes in their dry net of roots, smooth as eggs. She put them in her apron and walked back to the house thinking, What have I seen, what have I seen. The earth and the sky and the garden, not always as they are. And she saw her daughters’ faces not as they always were, or as other people’s were, and she was quiet and aloof and watchful, not to startle the strangeness away. She had never taught them to be kind to her.
Conference Assistant Suzie Eckl
Excerpt from Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
God spare you the judgment of a fifteen-year-old girl.
Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “Weeding the Body” in the Virginia Quarterly Review